As we marked 25 years since the founding of The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, Dr. Doug Shirley and Dr. Paul Hoard, two of our core faculty members, began exploring together what it means for our institution to have a history and to be haunted by a legacy. In the three essays in this blog post, Dr. Hoard and Dr. Shirley argue for the importance of listening to and learning from these proverbial ghosts and shadows of our past. During our 25-year celebration, throughout 2023, as these essays were written, the two professors also invited colleagues to share their perspectives, experiences, and insights. Stay tuned over the next four weeks, as we will further explore this conversation through a series of podcasts with Dr. Curt Thompson, Dr. Monique Gadson, Dr. Chelle Stearns and Dr. J. Derek McNeil. Please share your thoughts on this series with Dr. Hoard and Dr. Shirley

Introduction & Preview

Here we claim that the ghosts and shadows of institutions such as ours now speak to things that we need to hear. They keep watch and hold vigil. They help us to see that which we can only see in part, if even in frustrating or even alienating ways. To that end, we seek to honor the ghosts and shadows of those who have come before us. In this blog series our purposes are as follows: 1) to create words and frames for taking responsibility for our part(s) of our institutional history, and 2) to invite conversation and response. We hope you’ll join us in this journey.

Our lineage is one of fire and ashes, ghosts and shadows, ghouls and angels, shame, and beauty. Ghosts and shadows can haunt us in ghoulish ways. But they can also point to realities that must be engaged for the transformation made possible through love to have its way.  

Ghosts and Shadows: Systemic Inheritance

Ghosts and shadows are the stuff of institution. They are the me/not-me of places like graduate schools, and maybe even graduate schools like our own. Hence, we have made them–ghosts and shadows–the focus of this blog series, meant to join in the celebration of our first 25 years of institutional living, but also with the look ahead to the next 25 years.

To begin, a bit of context. Martin Buber (1970) acknowledged that institutions will always bear limits, given the I-It framework on which institutions are built. Speaking of I-It, Anderson (2016) highlighted the continued, systemic failure of American institutions to prioritize and value all citizens, instead most enact the “white rage” of a white supremacist system on bodies of color. James Carse (1986) proposed that power (often associated with white supremacist systems) looks to maintain the status quo, whereas strength allows the horizon to move. Wilfred Bion (Rioch, 1970) spoke to how groups of people will, at a less than conscious level, abide by their own survival needs when such needs seem to be threatened in some way. Moreover, institutions (just like the people who operate within them) have limits, and often those limits are maintained by (quests for) power. Power can be used to defend one’s very (institutional) survival, either real or imagined.

We are at a cultural point of questioning the importance and value of institutions. There is no question that institutions like ours have failed and will continue to fail. And yet, while institutions continue to fail and cause harm, they are also places that hold and support. While the white church in the US, for example, has long been complicit in the oppression, lynching, and enslavement of Black bodied-Americans, the Black church has long been a source of hope, resistance and support (Cone 2011 and Jennings 2010;2020).

And so it goes that here we find ourselves as core faculty at The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology, an institution that was founded by a bunch of dreamers who wished for something new and different from and for graduate education, and specifically theological education. Those dreamers pushed, and maybe most notably they pushed off of what had come before them. Fantasies of what had come prior turned to imaginations for what could be.

In concordance with those fantasies, here at The Seattle School, the faculty have been working to actively (re)imagine our curricula and pedagogy for many a year now. A benefit of being a newer institution, not confined by certain bureaucracies or funding sources, is that we can work to become and to stay relevant in the midst of an ever-changing educational and cultural landscape. We can seek the horizon, even in the midst of trying to keep our doors open and to make sure we are abiding by things like our accreditation standards and the codes of ethics that govern our work.

So how does it go? The work is difficult, and the work is perennial. Sometimes there is fun and joint exploration, and sometimes there is distress and consternation. We know of the importance of making the implicit explicit, and we know what happens to messages that hover in the realm of the implicit.

For me (Paul Hoard), here at The Seattle School the implicit has haunted my experience like family secrets at one’s in-laws. I’ve just joined this community in the fall of 2021 and have found myself confronted with the nameless ghosts of what’s come before me. That I am new, though, doesn’t insulate me from the power of these specters. In faculty meetings, I often find myself swept up in the apathy, affects, and arguments that are somehow both mine and not mine; struggles that have long predated me. They tie me to a story that has been playing out officially at least at our institution for the past 25 years. I am buffeted by these ghosts, at times driven by an almost manic energy to produce and innovate while almost simultaneously yanked back into a defensive retreat from the intensity and fray. I find such a desire to shine and prove myself alongside a fear that I will disappear into a collective.

Each time I (Doug Shirley) “enter the building” (which can include a Zoom room for a meeting or a synchronous class session), I experience a certain haunt. As a “first-born son” of the institution (the first alum to enter the ranks of core faculty), I am often aware of the “not-ness” that is in me to pursue: just like those early dreamers were interested in positioning themselves towards what they were not (e.g. a philosophically modern, theological institution), I am often compelled to position myself as something or someone those dreamers were not (e.g. able to live out their mission together, etc.). The institutional “not me” that seems to be baked into so much of the dreamers’ framework, and to linger in so many of our staff meetings and class sessions, finds valence in me, a progeny of this institution.

The problem with a focus on “not-ness” is that it doesn’t leave one with anywhere to move towards. Freedom from is not freedom for, and in many cases, is not really freedom at all. In philosophy this is seen as the concept of determinant negation. We are far more determined by what we think we are not than by what we are. In psychological theory we get the paradoxical theory of change: the more one attempts to be something they are not, the more things stay the same. If I (Doug Shirley), as the progeny of the generation before me, try to “not” be something that generation was, the likelihood that such efforts will lead to anything meaningful, generative, or sustainable is low, as so many of us become our parents despite all efforts to be anything but them. Though such efforts are often the early entry ways into something new and different, if one settles for the not-ness of something, one never has a something to turn to.

At The Seattle School, we are haunted by the legacies of the founders and the faculty who came before. Their gifts and their struggles, their arrogance and their humility, their service and their memories linger in the halls and digital spaces. Legacies call us back to that which was: They are often much more about the person leaving the legacy than they are to the person to whom the legacy is left (or maybe better said, who is left by the legacy). Higher education is rife with legacy. It can be a great honor to carry on the work of those who came before you but it is a great burden to carry their expectations.

Additionally, as with many other parts of our capitalist society, higher education lures and rewards the more self-interested, self-aggrandizing and narcissistic sides of each of us. While many professors begin with sincere conscious desires to help the world and to pursue wisdom and truth, we often quickly lose sight of such as we are seduced by our own legacy (power, survival needs) and the pressure to succeed and perform. Questions like, “What will I leave behind?” or “How will I be remembered?” fill in the spaces between subject and object, progeny and progenitor, previous employee and one currently gathering a paycheck.

What then can/do we do as those left by a legacy (or threatening to leave one ourselves)? Carrying on a work that is haunted by the ghosts and shadows of those who came before is confusing at best and isolating more often. When a person’s work has been undermined by their own actions, what is the task left to those who come after? Do we hold to what they think they left us? Do we abandon their struggle in favor of our own? Do we define or demarcate ourselves by what we are not? What happens when we hear something in their efforts that they no longer hear?

Ghosts and shadows never go away. And the misnomer that haunts them is that they exist to engage in ill will. What if this weren’t the case? What if light and dark held and conveyed in ghosts and shadows were merely contrasts? What if one could never escape the dark, because of its relation to the light?

Here we claim that the ghosts and shadows of institutions such as ours now speak to things that we need to hear. They keep watch and hold vigil. They help us to see that which we can only see in part, if even in frustrating or even alienating ways. To that end, we seek to honor the ghosts and shadows of those who have come before us. In this blog series our purposes are as follows: 1) to create words and frames for taking responsibility for our part(s) of our institutional history, and 2) to invite conversation and response. We hope you’ll continue to join us in this journey.

Ghosts and Shadows: Ghouls and Angels

I (Paul Hoard) have found Lacanian theory incredibly helpful as I have tried to navigate my place in the school. It has given me language for thinking about the unthinkable and about the limitations of my own ability to conceptualize that which may be hard to put into words. Lacanian theory argues that reality as we experience it can be divided into three intersecting registers: the real, imaginary, and symbolic. The imaginary and symbolic registers compromise our conscious, subjective experiences of the world. They comprise the rules and relationships between the things that we identify and experience. The real, however, is that which can’t be put into words: that which isn’t able to be symbolized and remains impossible. In a game of chess, for example, the symbolic and imaginary work together uniting theme and rules to make a structured game of medieval combat. The real of chess, though, would be everything related to the context and players of the game: what can’t be contained in the game itself. The real constantly interacts with and irrupts into the game, but can’t be conceived of in the limited world of pawns and rooks.

Ghosts and shadows, the focus of this ongoing conversation, exist in the real, and therefore will continue to haunt us from that place. The risk we run is limiting ourselves to what we imagine these ghosts and shadows are telling us, instead of trusting beyond our perception or understanding of the impossible real they point to. When we try to force ourselves to live into what we can only imagine, we create a resistance to the real. A resistance to what the ghosts and shadows are inviting us to re-member. In this way ghosts and shadows become misidentified as malicious ghouls, or the undead zombies from the past that refuse to stay buried. They become the stuff of nightmares, judging and condemning our inability to ever measure up. Alternatively when we can hope beyond what we can currently imagine, we leave open the possibility of a “perhaps” that these spectral guests may host. This, however, involves a release of what we think they mean: what is made thinkable by our imaginary-symbolic. The real is always something beyond what seems possible, and that is why pursuing such is always an act of faith. Listening for this real requires a release of control and a foolish hope in what we cannot see.

The Seattle School is a graduate school. It is an institution of higher learning. But our institution was founded on an espousal of difference: a reach beyond that which often existed in the academy, and maybe specifically in theological education. We share hope in subverting systems and empowering students; we seek to transform individuals, communities, and therefore (at least our little corner of) the world. So as we wrestle with texts and argue with scholars and one another, we bring such texts into conversation and dialogue with soul and culture.

However, text is never neutral. in Plato’s Phaedrus dialogue Socrates recounts a myth around the significance of the written word stating “[written letters] give your disciples not truth but only the semblance of truth; they will be hearers of many things and will have learned nothing; they will appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing; they will be tiresome company, having the show of wisdom without the reality.” Text in its very nature has impact.

Inscribing ideas into text carries with it a loss and an insulation from the real. There’s a calcification that takes place as the words become fixed while context(s) and time changes. Lacan argues that the signifiers and the signified of language never fully align. Therefore all communication is a failure. As such, when we concretize the signifiers through writing, the slippage of the signified–or the intended message–is guaranteed. Consider for example, how many wars have been fought in the name of Jesus. We may invoke his name, but its use bears no resemblance to the person who willingly died for others in a radical refusal of hate and violence. Jesus in America today mostly signifies nationalism, bigotry, sexism, and hate instead of a self-sacrificing love for all.

Recognizing that our inherited approach to learning is not the real does not condemn us to forsake it in search of another. Such a quest would be another way of holding on to the fantasy that a perfect, objective approach can exist. Instead, the failure of our inheritance (or the inheritance of many failures) is an invitation to push further into that which we seek in order to find its limits and thus hope for more. In the words of the classic children’s book Going on a Bear Hunt (Rosen, 1989), “we can’t go over it, we can’t go under it, oh no! We’ve gotta go through it.” We try to hold the text in such a way that we can play, or simultaneously exist in the “as-if” realness of our world, knowing full well it’s not the full real. We listen for the liminal, impossible, thin space between the borders of our imaginary-symbolic realities and an unimaginable real that’s beyond our current possibilities.

Being a community of higher-education with an emphasis on text.soul.culture is inherently contradictory, with many contradictions baked into us as an institution (though we’re certainly not alone here). If we zoom into our name alone, we come face to face with the first of these budding contradictions. Before even addressing the tension between theology and psychology, the name “Seattle School” presents us with an impossibility. Seattle sees itself as a symbol of progressive protesters, defying and toppling systems of oppression and control, and subverting modern forms of power. Whereas, “school” is one of the oldest institutions in western culture responsible for maintaining the status quo and existing power dynamics. Schools are notorious for moving at a snail’s pace, and those snails are often patriarchal and paternalistic. Seattle is imagined to be techy, new, innovative, and egalitarian. Schools are thought to be archaic, slow, and hierarchical. So how can we claim to be a Seattle School without inherently claiming a deep sense of contradiction, irony, and hypocrisy? Don’t these two signifiers (Seattle and School) sit diametrically opposed to one another?

Moreover, might this be our birthright as faculty and the community of The Seattle School? Might we have been “born” into this fight, this tension, this essential impossibility? We would argue that The Seattle School has worked to discover and to map an impossible space since its inception, if not its very conception. A school in Seattle. A progressive religious community. A theologically oriented school of psychology. We work to defy the “shoulds” of today’s cultural battles, insisting on a space of impossibility. But such a space has come with a cost.

The problem with striving to exist in a space of impossibility is that we don’t arrive where we intend to go and we constantly risk (if not guarantee) falling short—mistaking our re-imagining for the irruption of the real. We see the fruits of our trevails in the painful fragmentation and splitting that comes in search of the impossible real: fragmentation between faculty, between students, between departments, and between constituents. But failure is also the birthplace of creativity. And impossibility is the birthright we have been given.

Psychologically speaking, one is able to exist in contradiction through a range of responses, including dissociative splitting or integrative growth. In dissociative splitting we cut off connection with parts of ourselves (or others) so as not to face the contradiction. We resolve the dissonance of the other by ignoring, denying, or avoiding. Fragmentation becomes our deliverable. In contrast, in growth we are able to integrate these disparate parts of ourselves and find a larger sense of self that can contain the contradiction so as not to fragment. Multiplicities and simplicities intermingle and augment one another, making room for the real of the impossible.

As Doug and I look to the next 25 years, questions surface for us around integration. Maybe the despair(s) and disappointment(s) of our institution’s failures and fragmentations have thrust us headlong into a premature pursuit of integration. Lacking patience, maybe we have looked to resolve that which is irresolvable. Maybe we have chosen blame and shame, rather than engaging in the infinite game (Carse) of the impossible. How could we not?

The ghouls of our past fragmentation keep shrouding us from the essential haunting of our ghosts and shadows. In other words, the real territory of ghosts and shadows gets supplanted by maps and simulations of ghouls gone dissociative. Students confused by the insistence on theological education, donors concerned by progressive policies, staff frustrated by distant faculty, instructors defensively teaching against one another: all of these are symptoms of a system caught (and not always held) by its own impossible mission. But what if this wasn’t the end of the story? What if better angels call to us from within (the real)? In the words of our president, Dr. J. Derek McNeil, could we continue our work to belong to one another? Could we give up on our (con)quest of integration in service of something deeper and richer? Could we endeavor to reach past the edge of our imagination with a foolish hope that something else could become possible in search of the impossible real?

Durable Beauty

Watch that old fire as it flickers and dies
That once blessed the household and lit up our lives
It shone for the friends and the clinking of glasses
I’ll tend to the flame, you can worship the ashes
-“Ashes” by The Longest Johns

In the state of Washington at the moment, there’s a burn ban in place—a ban that is intended to help protect our forests from the fires of careless campers. It is a powerful reminder of the dangers of how untended flames can ravage and destroy. The dream of the founders of The Seattle School was one such flame. It has burned brightly for 25 years with the beauty of “serving God and neighbor through transforming relationships,” but it has also burned people in its path. The ghosts and shadows of The Seattle School point to the damage that this flame has wrought, rewriting a narrative of transformation into one of hurt and shame. As we close this short project and look to the next 25 years, we are left with a choice—we can tend to the flame or we can worship the ashes. We can linger with an ideal, or we can work to engage with the real.

Our previous reflections on ghosts and shadows have circled around the concepts of shame and beauty. There is a beauty that calls to us at this school: A flame that ignited the founders to dream up this institution and that has sparked in each of us as we have joined. But that beauty has also faded, at times, and the flame has flickered. Surviving COVID together, for instance, was one such time when our flame faltered. We have each felt the disintegration of fire-to-ash as the reality of our efforts have often failed to match the dream of our hopes. These losses carry with them the shame of failure—a shame of having caused harm, of not tending the fire in ways that would or could bring warmth and sustenance to all. The beauty that inspires can’t be separated from the shame that exposes and hides. Shame and beauty, image and real, ashes and flame—these entities have encircled us with and in this project as we have reflected on the ghosts and shadows at the school and its ancestral learning communities. How can we tend to the flame that first called us to this school? How do we hold on when that flame flickers? How do we work to cultivate an enduring beauty?

The hope of enduring (or durable) beauty takes us back to the difference between the image and the real. The danger of a dream is that we will believe we’ve arrived and then work to ensure that everyone else thinks so too—calcifying the dream into a static image. It is so easy to mistake the image of ourselves for the actuality of ourselves. The image is mesmerizing. It’s exciting to see oneself in the world—to be seen as something beautiful. And so the image can captivate us. Like Narcissus staring at his own reflection, we can be lured into adoring our image while our body begins to decay. We can cling to the ashes of an image that was, while the fire dies or blazes out of control. The danger of trying to save the world is one will begin to think of themselves as a savior. And so the image can become the antithesis of the real—the ashes are not the flame. If we are so taken by how we look from the outside, we forsake how we actually are on the inside.

Thus the image will never quite fit. For example, what does “love well” actually mean in real time? The image is an appearance, not a reality. It is always from someone else’s view. The real of ourselves, however, is something else. Ghosts and shadows haunt us from the ashes of our past, exposing the gap between the image and reality. At times, our interpretations have missed the mark. Our attempts at equity (or lack thereof) have fallen short. To the extent that we have aligned ourselves with the image of what we wished to be, our ghosts have turned to ghouls—shaming us and pointing to the ashes saying the dream died long ago. Ghouls threaten to tear apart the beautiful image we carry of who we are, and so we ignore, avoid, and hide from them. But if we can hope past our image, if we can faith beyond our appearance—to a real that is just past our perceptions—then maybe we can tend to the flame that first burned in our collective imaginations. Perhaps then we might welcome the ghosts as ancestors, reminding us of who we are, where we’ve been, and helping us actually become something more. More often than we might know or imagine, ancestors hold vigil, lurking as ghosts in shadows, waiting and wanting for their advocacy to be realized.

So an enduring beauty is one that faiths/trusts/hopes beyond the imaginable. It points to the impossible real. Enduring beauty is not protecting an image, but recovering a connection—integrating into a more whole self. It is beauty that saves us, and beauty that sets us free.

Flames are dynamic and so is our dream: the dream to be(come) a learning community in the Pacific Northwest who engages in Christian theological education in new and life-giving ways, the dream to steward a counseling program that trains practitioners to engage with their own lives and stories in ways that pave the way for them to do something similar on behalf of others. The dream to transform, even as we seek transformation with and for others. If we at the school are to strive for an enduring beauty we need to be able to face the shame of our failures and to tell a more whole story of who we have been and where our limitations have been made manifest. We need the ghosts to remind us of what we don’t want to know. We need for them to champion us from the shadows, and we hold hope that that which is brought into the light is no longer dark, and will become a source of light (Ephesians 5:13).

At a conference recently, a presenter offered a differential between temporal and enduring self-care. It connects with what we’ve been describing with the image and the real as well as the mission of The Seattle School—and the light it hopes to bring to the darkness around it. We are a school that was founded on and with beauty and desire. The aim of desire is desire itself—always moving us towards more, towards the infinite, the eternal, and the Divine. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5:1). Freedom comes at the intersection(s) of particularity between beauty and shame. If “transforming relationships” is a primary to our mission, then desire and beauty must be at the center. And if desire and beauty are at our heart’s center, shame will accompany and surround our sanguinity.

The Irish poet and theologian, John O’Donohue, believed that beauty encircles truth. So, in other words, truth without beauty is not true or complete. But here is the thing about beauty: to engage it, one must engage with the particularity of what makes something or someone beautiful. Beauty is specific and can’t be standardized—it is unique. And when one engages it, what one will find is that beauty and shame chase after the same thing—particularity. This indicates that an avoidance of shame is a refusal of beauty. If we fail to listen to the shame that could admonish us and goad us on, we turn our backs on the phoenix that may just rise again from the ashes. How has our hubris kept us from goodness? Where have we chosen power over truth? How has our intolerance for shame and our unwillingness to listen kept us from engaging the horizon(s) of beauty that sprawled out before us?

Flames are particular, and so are the dangers related to such flames. Flames that transform particular objects (like firewood) into ashes render said particularities nondescript and unrecognizable. The interplay of flames and ashes cannot be avoided by an institution or community with transformation as its root value or lifeline. Ashes cannot be avoided when one lights a flame. But much can be done with how one tends to the flame before, during, and after the time(s) in which it’s been lit.

And so it goes that we find ourselves at the intersections of 25 years. We’ve made it this far (25 years in), and our eyes are on the journey ahead (the next 25 years). As faculty, shame comes at us in two directions: It comes from our history and our predecessors, or the ashes that have accumulated over time. It also comes from those learners who are trying to make their way through graduate programs when society has trained them according to the rules of whiteness (dominance, mastery), consumerism (entertainment, service) capitalism (dissatisfaction), social media (stupification, ala Jonathan Haidt), the multiple fragilities associated with patriarchy, (cancel/call-out culture paired with glorified and protracted adolescence), and a political landscape that only knows how to cultivate identity through opposition and hatred. As such streams merge both in and around us, in the words of our colleague, Dr. Monique Gadson, it’s our job to be(come) a non-anxious presence in the face of that shame: a people who are willing and able to tolerate and engage the shame that circulates, listening to its direction and admonishment, but not personalizing that which isn’t personal. And isn’t that an essential rubric when engaging this way?

Shame is a social emotion. It is an experience of the eyes (per Gershen Kaufman). Shame speaks in particularities, even when it is institutionalized and therefore ubiquitous. For instance, it is particular moments in classrooms in the midst of disruption that linger: it’s particular words that are spoken or not spoken, it is in the way a question is asked, it is in the way a response is given, that shame leaves its mark. Likewise, beauty lingers in its particularity. Specific ways that words or gazes are held, energies engaged, or stories honored can move mountains and build bridges in ways that were previously unimaginable. And so we see the inherent tensions that abide in the spaces between beauty and shame. If abstraction is the image, then particularity is the real which is ever-evolving and eluding our grasp. We touch it, see it, taste it, but only for a time. And then we are left with its haunt and a decision about what we’ll turn to next. It is only in vulnerability that we make room for the beautiful and enduring real. It is only in vulnerability that our posture remains open to learning: a learning that might just lead to transformation.

So where are you and we called to learn together in this season ahead? What is (y)our fire? What is (y)our desire? What are the particularities of beauty that call to you and to us? Where does shame haunt you and us, and where might it admonish us, if we remained open to the beauty alongside which it resides?

As we prepare for a new cohort to join us, we continue to re-member that every new cohort re-imagines and re-shapes the particularities that make us The Seattle School. Our Benedictine friends proclaim: “Always we begin again.” Tending a flame is not a static job. Flames require new fuel and more oxygen to stay alive. But beginning again does not mean that we forget our past or we deny our ghosts and shadows, pretending like ghouls and angels don’t remain ever active and disruptive in and around us. Beginning again means staying connected to the dynamic dream that continues to call to us from the real instead of worshiping the ashes of what once was.

For a long time, the Practicum process was a thumbprint of our curricula here at The Seattle School. It was a primary place where transformation was sought, and even sometimes birthed. Sparks lit into flames with countless stories of beauty and growth. But there were times when those flames also burned and scarred—and often the most vulnerable were hurt the worst. The ashes of the dream of practicum began piling higher as the fire of what had sparked in the beginning blazed out of control. Tending the flame of our practicum processes required a reimagining and reshaping into something more boundaried and equitable, which includes our newly designed Listening Lab curriculum, where our work is to listen to ourselves listening. Our incoming cohort will be invited to deep listening, with the help and support of their learning community partners around them. No class or curriculum is ever perfect or complete, but we are proud of who and what we are becoming as we all work to listen differently–and maybe even more deeply–than we have before. This project that we have set out on brings us back to the same place: deep listening. Deep listening unto enduring beauty.

There is so much goodness in this place. Good people, good processes, good curricula, and sometimes good coffee. But this goodness is susceptible to being reduced to the ashes of what once was—worshiping the image and denying the real. Ghosts and shadows call us to the particularity of beauty and shame that sits at the heart of a school that values transformation. We have to tell and retell the stories to which the ghosts and shadows point us, listening into and unto a non-anxious presence that cultivates fire but does so within healthy limits.

Here we have spent a season together in deep listening and reflection. Our hope has been to point to something much more impossible than finding and settling blame. We have hoped for a space wherein streams of shame that flow generationally towards each other can find engagement and restoration in a community, engaging in processes of deep listening with each other in non-personalized, non-defensive, non-anxious ways. Our lineage is one of fire and ashes, ghosts and shadows, ghouls and angels, shame and beauty. Ghosts and shadows can haunt us in ghoulish ways. But they can also point to realities that must be engaged for the transformation made possible through love to have its way.

If you are an alum of this place and your fire burns bright, may it be so! If you are an alum of this place and you find yourself covered with the soot and ashes of a dream that burned you into silence and isolation, may something of your own heart’s goodness compel you to continue to spark—and may you know that you are never alone. For those of us who carry the mantle of faculty and staff, may we tend to the flame of The Seattle School. May we honor our ghosts by acknowledging their presence and by engaging with the ancestry to which they return. May we continue to listen to shadows of shame—and to the beauty and desire that surrounds it—never being defined by what it might tell us, but always being open to what we might hear and discover. May we resist the lure of an image of ourselves and listen instead for the real of who we are and can become.

Add to the conversation: share your thoughts with Dr. Paul Hoard or Dr. Doug Shirley.